29 August 2010

Some of the older neighbours

We live on what used to be the bottom of the Champlain Sea not too far from the shore, I'm told. Around 300 million years ago, in the Ordovician period, there was a lot of marine life including cephalopods, similar to the squid, octopi and cuttlefish swimming around today. There are a couple of nice examples in the exposed limestone on our property.

I have no idea what specific kind of cephalopods these may be. There are all kinds of other little creatures in both of these pictures. My uneducated eye sees only things that look like they should be in the ocean. We're a long way from any salt water here so it's fun to go beachcombing in the backyard. 

I wonder if a few hundred million years from now anyone will be trying to identify me?

22 August 2010

Don't tell the others...

...Edna is my favourite.

The herbalist's apprentice makes a tincture

Since the early spring, I've been spending one day a week at a herb farm in the Ottawa Valley as a herbal apprentice. I've been getting hands-on with all kinds of plants, wild and cultivated, at the farm and experimenting at home.
Today, I decanted and filtered a tincture of St. John's Wort. There is lots of St. John's Wort growing on our property, the result of the generous application of horse manure by the previous owner. St. John's Wort is considered a noxious weed because it is harmful to some livestock.

A tincture is made by chopping up St. John's Wort flowers and leaves and stuffing them in a jar. The jar is filled with vodka and left to sit for six weeks. The active ingredients in the herb are soluble in alcohol. It looks pretty murky after spending most of the summer on the windowsill. St. John's Wort is typically harvested on St. John's Day (June 24), but it reblooms after being cut back so several harvests can be made from the same plant over the summer.

After six weeks, the tincture is filtered through a jelly bag and squeezed tightly to get every last drop. The tincture is still pretty cloudy at this point.

I used a coffee filter to clarify the tincture. You can see the lovely clear red colour.

The tincture can be taken, a few drops at a time, to help with stress, anxiety and the blues. This will be part of my winter survival kit for when clean living isn't quite enough .


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